Magazine article Screen International

The Story Behind Israeli Debut 'Holy Air'

Magazine article Screen International

The Story Behind Israeli Debut 'Holy Air'

Article excerpt

Actor-filmmaker Shady Srour on his debut feature, which premiered in Tribeca and plays in Jerusalem this week.

Actor-filmmaker Shady Srour takes a deep breath with Holy Air, his feature debut as a writer-director. Tom Grater reports

Palestinian-Israeli actor Shady Srour rose to prominence in 2015 when he starred in Basil Khalil’s short comedy Ave Maria, which premiered at Cannes and went on to be nominated for an Oscar at the 2016 Academy Awards.

He’s now made his feature debut as a writer-director with Holy Air (in which he also stars), a comedy about an Israeli man living in Nazareth with his wife who tries to strike it rich by selling bottled air from the Holy Land to tourists.

Despite studying for an acting degree at Tel Aviv University, Srour set his sights on working as a filmmaker early on in his career.

The decision to write material he could act in himself came about after Srour hit a stumbling block in his fledgling acting career, when his agent at the time kept submitting him to auditions for inappropriate roles. “He was sending me to auditions as an Arab, but everybody thought I looked either Jewish, Argentinian or Russian, so I didn’t get the parts,” he says.

It was around this time that Srour had the initial inspiration for Holy Air, when his wife fell pregnant with his first son, leaving the couple facing significant changes to their lives. He considered producing a docudrama about their situation, featuring his wife, but struggled to attract the required funding. Further down the line, he reimagined the film as a narrative feature, and found the Israeli funds more receptive to the project, eventually receiving backing from the Israel Film Fund and Gesher Film Fund. …

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